So That’s How Evolution Works… July 30, 2010

So That’s How Evolution Works…

On a bridge at Madeira Beach, Florida, these cutouts were placed earlier in the week. They’ve since been taken down.

So that’s what evolution leads to…

It’s offensive, silly, and just plain untrue.

But is it that surprising that someone would do this?

Answers in Genesis (the Creation Museum folk) once put up this billboard:

They weren’t kidding.

We don’t have any information about who put the cutouts on the bridge, but it certainly falls in line with the slanderous sort of thinking that says if you don’t have god in your life (i.e. you accept evolution?), you must be completely immoral.

(Thanks to Eddie for the link)


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  • Greg

    Oh… I thought the cut-out with the gun was meant to represent creationists trying to stop the fact of evolution being taught!

  • Kristy

    My first thought was the same as Greg, that the gunman is a creationist. If the cut-outs were anti-evolution the gunman would be facing the other way?

  • Guy G

    I thought it was a general remark on the prevalence of gun violence. And rather a good one at that.

    I quite like Greg’s interpretation too though.

    So that’s what evolution leads to…

    It’s offensive, silly, and just plain untrue.

    Is it? It seems like a pretty good addendum to the standard ascent of man image.

    You may well have the intended meaning correct, I really couldn’t say. But I find it interesting that you see an anti-evolution message. I’ve also noticed that this site has become less “friendly” of late. This isn’t a criticism, just a noticeable change in your stance. I think that it’s likely that it’s to do with your increasing popularity, and with it your increasing visibility. I think it fits with people like PZ and Dawkins being such strong atheists and also biologists. I don’t believe that it’s the biology which makes them so adamant, but the heightened exposure to creationists which they receive as a result. I’ve only once had a creationist try and convince me that evolution was wrong. I thought he was mildly amusing, but rather inoffensive. If you’re exposed to such people all the time, it’s bound to harden your stance, I’m sure it would with me.

  • Viggo the Carpathian

    In light of the billboard shown, I can see how you interpreted it as anti-evolution but that is not how it struck me. I laughed. I saw it as saying that after the long struggle of evolution we are stupid enough to turn on our own history and deny it. I saw it as anti religious. But I suppose if that had been the intent the gun would have been levelled at the pre-human hominids…

  • Rob

    I agree with the posters above that it doesn’t seem like an anti-evolution display. I thought that it was commenting on the nature of mankind, and how we’re not that far removed from animals in that we can have violent impulses and act selfishly.

  • Viggo the Carpathian

    Oh, and as for this site being less Friendly… you are right Greg G but I think it’s necessary.
    It is more than time to revoke the societal respect afforded to religious views. Denial of reason belongs to the past and will do nothing to advance our species. Its hard to find an evil in the world that doesn’t have god’s finger prints on it somewhere. Its time to stop being all friendly and cordial and acting as if it is OK to believe utter BS. It isn’t, it is mentally ill. If an adult human declares a firm belief in Santa Claus or claims to be Jesus or Napoleon we find them a nice white coat and reach for the lithium. There is no difference save numbers between those things and the belief in gods, goddesses, God, magic, ghosts or any of the other various things people hold to.

  • Trace

    I don’t even get the first display…(never said I was smart….) Trending towards increased violence, extinction by our own hands….? No, don’t get it….

    The second one is sad and blatantly misleading…

    oh well…”Adam-had-no-belly-button-answers-in-genesis”, indeed.

  • Naomi

    My thoughts are much the same as Rob on the evolution cutouts, and I thought it was pretty funny. The Answers in Genesis billboard is SHOCKING though.

  • alex

    Yeah, dunno ’bout you, Hemant, but I don’t necessarily see it as an anti-evolutionist display, either. Kind of reminds me of the stuff towards the end of Big Bang Big Boom animation by BLU (http://vimeo.com/13085676, especially around 8:15—8:50).

    Of course, that depends on who put the display up — I guess, what I’m saying is that there is no direct evidence that the message is “evolution = murder”, like in the AiG poster, which is pretty explicit. The fact that this took place in Florida doesn’t help my case, though, since there’s quite a number of vocal fundies over there; but shouldn’t we as skeptics be a little more about hard evidence than belief and interpretation?

  • I’m with the others in not seeing the cut-outs as offensive. I see it as a cynical analysis of human progress and propensity toward gun violence.

    The billboard however is a different story…

  • Matt

    I always thought the religious were the ones renown for their gun violence. I don’t have any evidence to support that though.

  • Mel

    I agree with Greg, that was my first interpretation. Now that billboard is plain scary. What I don’t see clearly is if they condone violence against atheists or if they believe we will shoot them up for believing in god. Sick, sick, sick.

  • Hitch

    I’m shocked by comments by Guy G and Viggo. You guys really do not get it?

    AiG is the same group that funds that pseudo-“peer-reviewed” journal to undermine science and give pretense that one can do credible research to confirm christian doctrine.

    The first one I think can be seen in many ways. I have less problems with that.

    The second is an overt negative stereotyping of non-believers.

    It states that non-belief is responsible for gun violence. That even though the incarceration rate of atheists is far lower than of christians in the US!

    It’s the worst scare tactics and hate display against a group, to make others afraid of them. It’s the same as depicting jews as dangerous, or blacks as dangerous.

    It is utterly despicable and contemptible.

    If you guys do not get it, go away. You give comfort to those that try to sow hate against atheists. And yes I am serious.

  • muggle

    I join the rest in the cutouts. I took it as a statement of man’s violence. Sort of like Pearl Jam’s “Evolution” video (you tube it or go to their web site if you haven’t seen it; it’s a good one) about how weapons have evolved to cause greater and greater destruction and increase man’s inhumanity to man. Rather a good statement.

    The billboard is just twisted and, as you said, stereotyping. You’re comparing apples and oranges in comparing these two.

  • BeamStalk

    Hitch, calm down, they were talking about the cut outs not the billboard. Everyone would agree that the billboard is offensive.

  • TychaBrahe

    The evolving man into something funny or unpleasant has been done over and over. The wonderful specimen of stone age pulchritude evolving into a couch potato or overweight Web addict is standard fare.

    The second one is stupid, and that anyone would think it was worthy of advertising dollars, scary.

  • Hitch

    BeamStalk: True, I misread, my apologies. That poster really gets me I must say.

    And I had way too many debates recently where theists claim that atheism is violent that I frankly cannot stomach it anymore.

  • Jagyr

    I didn’t see an anti evolution message in the viroids until Hemant mentioned it. It’s art, in a way – you see different things depending on who you are. We’d have to talk to the guy who put it up to find out. Knee jerk assumptions without evidence makes us poor skeptics.

    Also, my iPod apparently auto-corrects “cutouts” to “viroids”…WTF?

  • Viggo the Carpathian

    Not sure what I am supposed to not be getting… am I to take it that because I do not see the cut outs the same way you do means I should go away and shut up. Hitch, is that what you saying here? I find the billboard offensive but I thing the cut outs are rather interpretable. If you think that disagreeing with the interpretation is somehow supporting AiG you are wrong.

    …or did I misread you and you are shocked by my wanting to take a harder line against faith as a whole in my second comment… confused

  • OverlapingMagisteria

    I too saw the cut outs as representing the battle between creationists and “Darwinists.” It didn’t really take a side on the issue, just acknowledged the issue.

    Though I think the interpretation of “Look how far we’ve come in our evolution and we are still killing one another like wild animals” is more likely what the artist intended.

  • Mike E

    I recently heard a funny quip that is relevant. This person was responding to some of the insane and base behaviors that mankind is capable of. He said that we have been evolving in a positive direction for 3 billion years, but apparently we peeked in 1999 and are now on the beginning of a downward track. These cut outs remind me of that.

  • Erica

    I took the cutouts as a clever statement on the prevalence of violence in our society.

  • that billboard is awful.

    fear-mongering should always be a red flag.

  • Ron in Houston

    Another vote for prevalence of violence/social commentary.

  • JD

    I can easily read the cutouts either way. Works great as art because it’s actually open to interpretation because of differences in point of view, i.e. one is that teaching evolution increases crime (doubtful, violent crime has been decreasing anyway) the other is that the creationists are willing to do anything to stop evolution education.

    The second one is approaching libel, though I wouldn’t waste time prosecuting it. What is the current statistic on the percent of incarcerated atheists vs. number percent of the general population that are atheists?

  • Phrosty

    So that’s what evolution leads to…

    It’s offensive, silly, and just plain untrue.

    I think it’s pretty safe to say that you wildly misinterpreted the piece (which is something along the lines of anti-gun violence), but judging by the other comments, that message might have been a bit vague.

    As for the Answers in Genesis billboard: that thing still pisses me off. As if.

  • Philbert

    I agree with Greg, I took it as anti-creationist. I suppose it could be anti-violence (I don’t see the purpose of being anti [particular weapon] violence), but then it would make less sense to me because animals are violent too.

  • Drew M

    Ho boy. I was wondering when the windmill charging was going to begin.

    The first thing I thought of when I saw the silhouettes was that it was a commentary on violence. Then I thought it could be an anti-gun statement. My most cynical thought was that it was a racist commentary.

    Anti-evolution never even occurred to me.

  • jemand

    ok, am I the ONLY one who thought it was racist? Given the history of referring to nonwhites as monkeys or less evolved…

  • Ron in Houston

    @jemand

    No you’re not alone in that interpretation especially since the figures are black.

    I guess that’s why it’s called art.

  • Viggo the Carpathian

    I think racism is pushing it a bit… they are black because they are silhouettes… are all the cut outs of black bears all over the NC mountains specist against black bears and funded by grizzlies?

    Come on people…

  • Drew M

    @jemand

    No, but as I mentioned in my post above yours, it was the last, most cynical thought about them.

    I neglected to mention it earlier, but yeah, that stupid creationist billboard really chaps my ass.

    Some days it’s hard to defend the rights of these assholes to post this crap, but I still will.

    ETA: @Viggo

    I agree.

  • Aaron
  • Aaron

    Maybe this is more like it.

  • evilspud

    I doubt evolution is implied. The descent of man is iconic in an artistic way as well.

    Remember the band t-shirts that used it as a logo?

    It may just be an ironic comment on what progress has led too.

    Let me try and give y’all an anology: Would a gay rights group take offense in any degree of graffitti featuring a rainbow being cast over a city ravaged by war and littered with corpses?

  • ftl

    Huh, my first reaction to the evolution cutouts was that it was an environmentalist message. We evolved from animals, and the first thing we do is turn around and shoot them. A reaction to something like this ” http://www.terradaily.com/reports/Great_Apes_Face_Imminent_Extinction_From_Habitat_Destruction_UN.html ” (it’s a 2005 article and I have no comment as to whether it’s a good one or not, but that’s what came up on google when I searched for ‘great ape habitat destruction’, which was my first thought when I saw the cutouts.)

  • To all those claiming the cutout is showing man’s propensity for violence, wouldn’t that point have been better made if the final cutout was facing in the same direction as the others?

  • Patrick

    Clearly, the cut-out thing is vague (how’s that for irony?). If we knew who put it there, it’d be easier to interpret, maybe. My reaction was that it was a simple (but clever) joke, not necessarily any kind of comment. The first three (left-to-right) figures are part of a standard, static presentation, and the last one is like a “live action” figure, undercutting the whole set-up.

  • Phrosty

    @Hemant: Not really, no. It would be less dramatic that way.

  • Liokae

    I wonder if the billboard’s image is public domain. I’d love to see somebody put up a duplicate and simply replace “doesn’t” with “does”.

  • Silent Service

    I agree with the many comments thinking the cutouts were a dig at religion and not at evolution.

  • Moxiequz

    To all those claiming the cutout is showing man’s propensity for violence, wouldn’t that point have been better made if the final cutout was facing in the same direction as the others?

    @Hemant: Not really, no. It would be less dramatic that way.

    I agree. Even if that wasn’t the case, how would that argument be any sort of support for a religious interpretation of the cutouts? At this point you’re just arguing artistic choices.

    Maybe the artist did intend these cutouts to be an anti-evolution or religious statement but if that’s the case I’d say they failed to get even their basic message across in their work. What immediately springs to mind when looking at the cutouts is a commentary on the inherent tendency towards violence in humans.

    This kind of reminds me of the guy at the Carl Sagan Institute (I believe, need to go back and check) who accused Gary Larson of being a creationist because of a cartoon Larson did showing dinosaurs and humans co-existing.

  • Enrys

    I just got the AiG billboard. What a load of shit.

  • abadidea

    The cutouts are good art precisely because there are several different interesting interpretations in the absence of context (we don’t know the artist and it doesn’t have a caption)

  • When I first looked at the cutouts on the bridge, I took it as violence/social commentary. The evolution/creationism debate didn’t even enter my mind until I read the rest of the posting.

  • Raven

    I don’t think this is commentary on evolution. It is simply saying that no matter how much we have evolved, we are a still a violent species. Hence the message is that intelligence doesn’t make us more evolved or smarter than our ancestors. It’s art anyway and if it’s offensive that’s a good thing. Art should be offensive or evoke powerful emotion. Even and especially if you don’t agree with the message.

  • Icaarus

    I have to agree with some people here, I kinda like the first picture. We evolved into war, when will we evolve out of it? It serves as a good reminder that evolution never ends.

    As for the second I think that is highly offensive. How do we know the guy pointing the gun doesn’t believe in god? Was there not a study of the American penal system that found more people in prison believe in god than people not in prison?

  • Vas

    My take on this, (the silhouettes) is that it is art. I would even go so far as to say this is art of a high quality as it engages people and spurs discussion as evidenced in this and other postings. I think this is what art should do, it should not be passive. Oh yeah and the fact that this is very close to an art school is a pretty dead giveaway.
    As to the billboard, I feel like that is just an attack of all non Xtians, it’s just vile.

  • matt

    I agree it’s silly, but I don’t find it offensive in the least; nor do I find it untrue – we evolved, we have guns, we shoot each other.

  • fracman

    Rob Says:
    July 30th, 2010 at 6:46 am

    I agree with the posters above that it doesn’t seem like an anti-evolution display. I thought that it was commenting on the nature of mankind, and how we’re not that far removed from animals in that we can have violent impulses and act selfishly.

    THIS.

  • So… wait. If God isn’t in your life you will become a criminal. And if God is in your life you will point guns at people and say “good thing for you I’m a Christian”?

  • @Greg:

    Oh… I thought the cut-out with the gun was meant to represent creationists trying to stop the fact of evolution being taught!

    I thought the same thing! Wow, whoever put up these cutouts is really bad at getting their message across. They don’t think evolution is true, and yet they are saying that evolution leads to people shooting people. If they think that evolution is not true, then how can they go around saying that evolution leads to certain things?

    They probably meant that believing in evolution leads to violence, but that makes not sense anyway, since violence existed long before the theory of evolution was accepted.

  • Moxiequz

    Sharmin:

    They don’t think evolution is true

    How do you know? What makes you sure you’re not misreading their intended message (which may have nothing to do with evolution/religion)?

  • Pseudonym

    This is like how Jerry Falwell thought Tinky-Winky was gay, right? Whatever you’re preoccupied with, that’s what you see everywhere, whether it’s real or not.

    That’s no way to spend your life.

  • Vanessa

    I thought the last cutout was an alien at first.

  • @Moxiequz:

    You’re right. It was very confusing. I think I put the first picture (which is definitely by an organization that does not support evolution) together with the second to reach that conclusion.

    For all I know, the first one may be a supporter of evolution trying to be funny. Thinking about it now, I shouldn’t have jumped the gun (no pun intended).

  • Dan W

    I’m not entirely sure what the cutouts might mean. They seem fairly open to interpretation, especially since there’s no words that go with them. The Answers in Genesis billboard, on the other hand, is pretty clear on its meaning. The AiG one is perpetuating a negative stereotype that is simply wrong, as god-believers tend to be more violent than us atheists.

  • fritzy

    I found this public art to be much more creative, clever and as has been made obvious by the amount of speculation amongst the commenters, too open to interpretation to be the work of a creationist. The typical pap spewed out by these folks is predictable and pedestrian. It’s message also can typically be easily dismissed as specious non-sense with a few simple statements (as with the laughable AiG billboard mentioned in this post.)

    No, I have to disagree with you on this one, Hemant. I think you misinterpreted this one. Either way, it’s art and I like it.

  • Gibbon

    From the silhouette cut-outs one could draw a completely different conclusion from what the creationist wants you to believe. Instead of the notion that acceptance of evolution somehow makes you immoral (which is patently ridiculous and contradicts history), the cut-outs can instead be interpreted as saying that evolution has produced a species so intelligent that it can bring on the extinction of other entire species.

  • muggle

    To all those claiming the cutout is showing man’s propensity for violence, wouldn’t that point have been better made if the final cutout was facing in the same direction as the others?

    No, Hemant, what would they be shooting at then? Nothing for all we know. The artist obviously wanted to depict them shooting at a fellow human.

  • tomath

    Maybe it’s just the simple message that man has evolved to the point of self destruction. On the other hand doesn’t that gunman look like a woman? That would call for another interpretation entirely–more comical and light-hearted perhaps; the war between men and women develops along an evolutionary path, then ends with a bang!